Hate lugging a bulky, large-screen smartphone everywhere? Verizon has a new gadget for you: The “ultra-mobile” Palm, bigger and more functional than a smartwatch but more compact than a regular mobile phone.
The $349 Palm, about the size of a credit card, features a 3.3-inch HD display and weighs in at just 2.2 ounces (62.5 grams). The Android-based device is not meant to be your primary smartphone — in fact, it must be linked to an existing Verizon Wireless account (with which it shares the phone number).
What’s the point of a teeny-tiny phone, if you still need to have a regular one? The device’s creators, ex-Samsung design executives Dennis Miloseski and Howard Nuk, said they wanted to create a new category of mobile devices for on-the-go activities, like working out, going to a concert, or taking a weekend getaway. The new Palm is designed for quick, easy access to tasks like listening to music or texting but includes a key feature, called Life Mode, that turns off all app notifications.
“It’s about technology receding,” Miloseski told Variety. “Do you really need to bring a supercomputer everywhere you go?”
Nuk puts the duo’s counter-intuitive goal this way: “We want to get people out of using screens.”
The “Palm” name will ring a bell for longtime technology fans: The original Palm Inc. introduced one of the first personal digital assistant (PDA) devices, the Palm Pilot, in the 1990s. The new incarnation of Palm was founded in December 2016 by Miloseski and Nuk. Their Palm Ventures Group acquired the rights to the Palm trademark from Chinese electronics manufacturer TCL, which in turn had bought it from HP in 2014.
“We’re not bringing back the PDA,” Miloseski said with a laugh. “We’re focused on reinventing Palm with its roots in mobile innovation.”
Among Palm’s investors are TCL, which is the startup’s manufacturing partner — and NBA superstar Stephen Curry, who’s also an adviser to the company on marketing, usability and social strategy. Curry will be a “brand ambassador” for the Palm, and he’s expected to wear it during pregame warmups and workouts with the Golden States Warriors.
Here’s Curry working out with the Palm strapped to his left arm in a custom sports sleeve he helped design:
Curry promoted the Palm’s launch with posts on social media Monday to his millions of followers with the startup’s tagline of “Live in the Moment”:
Palm Ventures Group is based in San Francisco’s SOMA district. The company declined to disclose specifics about its headcount, funding or investors (including whether Verizon owns any equity).
According to Nuk, one of the sources of inspiration for the new Palm came from Spike Jonze’s 2013 dystopian AI drama “Her.” In one scene, Joaquin Phoenix’s character takes out a small, card-size device and speaks into it. To that end, the Palm features voice-activated features with Google Assistant, which users can access by pressing the power button.
Miloseski believes the Palm’s Life Mode feature will be one of its lead selling points. Essentially, it turns off all connectivity when the device goes into sleep mode, so no notifications will pop up until a user reactivates it. “Instead of the phone demanding my attention, I can connect on my terms,” Miloseski said.
In a nod to the original Palm PDA, the new device includes a gesture pad on the lockscreen for quick access to apps. That lets you scribble a letter with your finger, and the Palm pulls up apps that start with that letter.
Palm runs Android OS 8.1, and it works with every app in the Google Play store (as long as it complies with Android design specs), including Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter.
The Palm is slated to ship in November. The device will be priced at $349 or $299 with a two-year Verizon contract; there’s also a payment plan of $14.58 per month for 24 months. Verizon’s NumberShare service for the device is $10 per month as an add-on to an existing wireless plan. Available in two colors — titanium and gold — the Palm will be sold at Verizon and Best Buy stores and on their websites. In addition, Verizon will offer a range of Palm carrying cases, billfolds and other accessories for the Palm, from Kate Spade and other partners.
While it’s small, the Palm is a pretty robust, full-featured smartphone. The LCD display packs in 445 pixels per inch, all in a device that measures 50.6-by-96.6-by-7.4 millimeters.
The device runs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 435 processor and includes 3 gigabytes of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It has a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and an eight-megapixel front-facing one, and comes equipped with 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. The Palm’s front and back feature Corning’s impact-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 and it has an aluminum mid-frame.
With Life Mode enabled, Palm has all-day battery life (about eight hours) with “typical use,” according to the company. More specifically, it’s rated for talk time of up to 3 hours and 20 minutes and local music playback of 9.5 hours.